Archive for the 'Consumer Electronics' Category

Too small an order…

…a refrain I’ve heard so often that I’m beginning to wonder whether I’m thinking too small or it is just a sales gimmick in India? It seems to be everywhere if you are the one trying to manufacture or make something- electronic toys, wooden toys, cardboard boxes, plastic games or toys. No one seems to be interested in creating a proof with you to move you to the next level, everyone wants the straight cut 10k piece order. The ones who are willing to do cut lots of corners on quality!

Is our manufacturing sector so bottom line stingy that it does not take ANY risks? How will we create a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship on such an ecosystem and mindset?

Mega Mart Shopping Bag!

I was typing something furiously away at my computer and looked away for a second when my eyes fell on this Mega Mart shopping bag. It read “Women, Men, Kids, Youth, Accessories, Footwear, Luggage, Home”. All in the same breath. All in the same color. All in the same font! I can’t stop smiling…coz a thought had struck…

What if…? Could we…? Someday…? go to a mart to buy – Women, Men, Kids, Youth and a Home – made to order? Really? Is it possible? Is it far away? Is it close enough? Are we headed that way?

What do you think?

Consuming Information Digit-ally


Image via Wikipedia

Lately I’ve realized that I’m consuming almost all my information through my RSS feed reader – news, blogs, articles of any kind. I’ve not yet moved to e-books because, ahem – all e-book readers (when they are available) in India seem to be so bloody costly!

The fact is, I still travel with a book or two. But, reading the latest blog articles on my mobile from a set of people I follow and admire, always seems to win vs. the books from authors I barely have a connect with. This has serious consequences, in my mind, on what kind of information/news/articles are being read by people. Instead of passively consuming some randomly pushed plot as decided by a publisher and a writer, now I decide the twists in the plot.

Jokes aside, the middle man is being cut out by the power of the reader and it is not just the traditional content creators that are in trouble, as is touted by the “big banner demise stories of newspapers”.

The small and convenient size of the blog articles and the easy to read format also make them more appealing to me. Oh, not to mention, most of the people who blog are experts in their fields or are striving to be so and if you pick and choose right, you get loads of good and solid information in their respective fields of expertise that is current, handy and reliable. Also, many of them have managed to create brilliant communities around their blogs, so each and every blog post gets 100+ responses. Another way to get a feel of the various industry opinions and contradictory viewpoints. They, in a way, complete the posts and make the rugged and more comprehensive.

I’ve never been able to watch news without losing interest in the first 2 minutes, read a newspaper without falling asleep (except for some interesting articles, here and there) but leave me with my RSS feedreader and I’m glued forever.

What role does a marketeer play in this world where content producers directly communicate with the readers? What do you think?

Blackberry boys (un)welcome change?

Truth be told the new Blackberry boys TV advertisement is cool (if you haven’t seen it, take a look here) and I love it.

You can clearly see that Vodafone is signaling (along with Blackberry) that it is not just for the “guys in suits” and the message is conveyed brilliantly. But, here is the million dollar question – it is a bold move and it takes Blackberry away from its corporate stronghold, is it a good strategy for Blackberry?

Even in the ad, you can clearly see the discomfort, confusion and alarm on the faces of the 5 “suited” people who were the only people in the frame originally. It could well be the case that Blackberry purchase decisions are made by “corporates” who don’t make it based on the image but on practical price-feature-network partnership parameters and Blackberry might pull off this brand extension exercise and come out all smiles (I hope that is what the research showed and hence they are doing this!).

If not, this could cost them their stronghold with the confused businessmen demanding to be given a choice of “iPhone/Blackberry/Nokia/Samsung” and the B2C market (in developing countries), being cost conscious that it is, opt for the local Blackberry rip offs instead!

It could well be that Blackberry has not seen the kind of traction with corporates in India that they generally see in other countries, in which case, this is a desperate move for them to expand their visibility and hence market share. Could they have done it with another brand name instead of extending the current one? What do you think?

Talking about sticky ads…

This is going to be a quick post about 2 ads that caught my attention. They are not very new but all the same stir the same “wow” feeling in my mind everytime I see them. These can be classified as those rare gems that convey the point, without overdoing it, everytime you see them and embody the essence of the brand extremely well. So here goes…

1. Reebok is running an ad for its easy tone range of sneakers across major cities in India with the tagline – “good for the feet, great for the sole”. It shows a lady’s shapely back with exercise shorts and shoes on her feet. I was caught off guard by the tagline. It was catchy! However, I forgot to click a picture of the ad and hence have been searching for the past few days online to get a picture of the same. Surprisingly, I came across a range of ads that they are running in other parts of the world that have much more sex quotient than the one I saw in India. And this rant came from as far and wide as China and the US. Check them out here and here.

2. Bharti AXA Health Insurance is running an ad with the tagline “why do most insurance companies make life so difficult?” and I agree 100%. Their ads claim that customers will never have to face issues related to cashless hospitalization not being approved in certain hospitals or do a produce a medical check up certificate prior to applying for a health insurance…however, it ends with the claim that you will never have to do a pre-emptive medical check up till age 55. Well, I would rather my health insurance company pay for a pre-emptive checkup every year than a one-time payment owing to sickness that could have been prevented, only if I had done regular checkups.

3. Fly Touch phones – This is a mobile phone company launched from Europe in 2003 and the ads I watched on national TV in India are as close to ridiculous as one can get. If you haven’t seen it or don’t believe me. Hear this out…a pilot is talking about the product sturdiness and a phone drops out of a flight, lands right into his hand and to top this all, there is a girl next to the pilot and he says, ‘it is as sturdy and reliable as you”…whoa!!! I must say, I had thought I had seen the lower limit of ridiculous ads in India, but this pushed the boundary further down…way down!

4. And…the zoos, zoos are back – lovely ads, as usual – though will not make me want to purchase the connection, I love seeing the ads. I especially love the new ad around roaming that Vodafone is running – “why be a tourist in your own country?” – pay 1p/s on roaming. Love this!!!

5. Karbonn Mobiles – I saved the best for the last. Now, this is a mobile company from India. UTL and Jaina group have co-launched this product and the first range of ads I saw was around dual-SIM. While the product is good, the ad was around managing a dual life (two wives…), the ad is funny, but goodness knows what point it was driving home and what segment it was catering to!

Anyhow…I wind down my list now and break the spell around no blog posts for the last 3 weeks with apologies. If anyone has purchased any of the products mentioned above please feel free to post your opinions, would love to hear from you.

Bluetooth Mobile Headsets – Quite An Earful!

Ever wondered why Bluetooth headsets never took off the way they should despite the growing need for such a gadget amongst the “teleconferencing community”? I bought a Jabra headset a couple of years ago and it has fallen out of favor with me . Thinking back at my reasons, I decided to put them up here for those considering buying one and for those wondering why they wasted money on it! Have fun…

1. Extra Charger – I need an extra charger for the headset! As if having to go through the constant charging of on my mobile phone was not painful enough. I have extra accessories to carry around and remeber to use. What is more, when I’m charging the headset, I can’t use it to talk. So, if you remember that you have an hour long call at the last minute and your headset is out of charge, tough luck!

2. Connectivity Issues – There is no way I can connect the headset as an afterthought, once the call has started, it just wouldn’t let me activitate the bluetooth headset. So using a headset actually means, being prepared – with it charged and connected – all the time, if that is how much you use your phone, which is most of us, anyway! Not to say, if the phone runs out of charge while you are talking, there are good chances that your call gets dropped.

3. Separate Entity – This is my favorite one…a bluetooth headset comes as a separate entity that I need to track apart from the 20 other things that are essential when I’m travelling or working – car keys, security cards, identity cards, food coupons, locker keys, house keys….what not?

Why can’t the mobile phone have a headset space on it, where I can plug it in after use and it charges along with my phone? Why can’t I connect the headset with the ease of putting my phone on speaker vs. handset mode? Well, life would be too easy then, eh?

Samsung Mobile Ads – Next Is What?

Samsung appointed Aamir Khan as the brand ambassador for their mobile phones in India in March 2008. Since then the ad series has gone through a couple of revamps. The initial set of ads were for the Samsung Karoke Phone, pictured Aamir Khan singing old Hindi film songs aloud and prancing around in an apartment. It was masterminded by the creative agency, Cheil Worldwide, and ended wit the punchline, “bolti band, gana shuru”, they were cheeky at best and ineffective, at worst. 

 The new set of ads are a refreshing change and bring out the innovative, creative quality of the Samsung brand to the forefront. Aamir shines in the ads by not being the center of activity, yet delivering the punches with precision timing.  It strings three disparate scenes together, with very apt music while showcasing the availability of features like music player (in a moving train), games and camera (with flash) on the mobile. You can see the new set of ads here. Quite a good package, I must say!

Just as these ads were enticing the users, here comes Samsung with a newer set of ads, showcasing a rugged image with their Samsung Marine. Attempting to debunk their image as just a “and stylish phone”, the ad is shot in real-life outdoor locations and showcases the phone weathering water, sun and mud effectively. The ad agency is Cheil India and have launched the ad with the tagline – “One Life. Challenge It.” What I find really cheeky with this ad is, in the first screen shot at the bottom they show, “Do not try this with any other mobile phone”. Ha ha!

Anybody tried any of the Samsung phones in any of these real life situations? Is it really as rugged as the ad claims?

Android = Google of consumer electronics OS?

First it was the Android Phone from HTC being launched by Google and then comes the news of a company called GNB launching a 7-inch netbook based off Google’s Android platform (and a Freescale iMX31 processor). You would think, thats it, but it does not stop there – Sony announces new walkman and PND for 2010 launch based off Android, T-Mobile is planning on launching new handsets based on Android and to top it all Google’s own announcement to launch 18 new handsets based on Android.

Acer, Sony Ericsson, Lenovo and the list goes on…here

Game Changer?

Has Android caused the kind of disruption in the consumer electronics operating system world as Google caused in the search engine market with a cheap, free and elegant solution and a charmingly “packaged” business model!

It does have some charm to it, it is open sourced, based on Linux kernel and provides access to all the functions of the phone to core as well as third party apps, which can help provide fast, easy and personalized services for users…

But what is the downside? Will it remain another peripheral play just like Linux vs. Windows? Probably and depends on whether any mass-uptake features are offered, whether any long term contracts get signed between major players based on Android support for their devices – however, players don’t seem to be in a hurry to commit to Android and boot Windows as per the HTC announcement (here) – “HTC will always have more Windows Mobiles than Android”…this could well be a rash comment or the vision of the world at the top?

Netbooks – India’s PC Superking?

Will netbooks cause the much awaited PC penetration in India? Will they do to India’s PC penetration what Nokia’s Rs. 1000 phone did to the mobile penetration? Maybe…it kind of brings about the third level of convergence – consumer, computation and communication – which has been the holy grail, so far – with the most affordable, feature rich and mobile solution, so far. So lets take a look at who is the target customer, who are the players raking in the moolah from the trend and what are the challenges…

Target Market Segments and what they want?

By the very definition of the product it is 7-10.1in screen size and light weight with basic application support (like word/excel etc.) as well as internet connectivity. All major and non-major brands are offering netbooks in India – including Dell, HP, Asus, Acer, Lenovo, Sony, Samsung and MSI. Keeping these in mind, we can define, three broad segments for netbooks (or nettops which is the low priced desktop version) – jetsetting business professionals, students (especially non-IT), first time PC users (like homemakers). These three segments are unique and divide the applications and price segments neatly.

For the Business Professionals the netbook will be a travel-lite option and in addition to their existing laptop, home computer and blackberry. So application sync up, easy and seamless access to content, long battery life (especially during travel), several kinds of wireless support etc. will be key applications and price might not be a major concern whether it is a personal purchase or a corporate one. This will be a predominantly netbooks segment with intense competition from low end, ultra portable, light weight, long battery life notebooks, as price is not a key differentiator in this market.

For the Student community – price and “cool” applications like touchscreen, enhanced gaming capabilities, access to collaboration tools/peer sharing applications might be key. This will be a predominantly netbooks segment and even for a $100 differential between low end notebooks it might stick with the netbooks market. While, for the first time notebook users, like homemakers – price, easy and intuitive access of basic word/excel/internet applications might be key. This segment may not be excessively mobile and might be the driver for nettops as much as netbooks.

Who are the main players?

The overall worldwide netbooks market stands at 13.2MU in 2008. Acer is the market leader in this market, with about 5MU sold in 2008 and Asus is close behind, as per iSuppli here. Intel and Via are the major IC suppliers in the netbooks market, while other players like AMD, ST Microelectronics, Nvidia etc. fight for market share.

What are the roadblocks?

Given the low pricing, optimized feature set and long battery life, the only thing that can limit the roaring success of netbooks would be availability and lack of an evangelist mission that will make the non-PC customers aware and interested enough to open up their purses.

There are a few substitutes in the form of products and business models on the horizon…ranging from products like IP STBs (and some black box kind of system solutions) that use the TV as a display module and enable dual function of entertainment and access/manipulation of content. Their winning mantra is easy to use interface – similar to a TV remote and an optional keyboard/mouse, if required along with private servers to serve specialized content to the users – however, players like Airtel and ACT have not seen a huge bout of success yet and also given the nature of their direct competition like Cable TV and DTH which have a good mindshare with customers. A few telecom players, like Reliance, had created bundled offers providing netbook with 3G connection based on a monthly subscription model, however, they have not met with huge success yet.

It remains to be seen if any of these models will take off with any of the segments mentioned above and what the optimum balance of feature and price will be that will catapult them to the #1 position.

Asus – Open Product Innovation

Innovation is as broad a topic as it can get, I will nibble at it from a corner and focus on Open Product Innovation today.

I came across this interesting concept website from Asus – wepc. Asus is a PC vendor and has opened up a customer channel for innovation and product thinking through this website. Some of the concepts are highly interesting ranging from a laptop with an integrated projector to a pedant PC (like the sixth sense presentation at TED) to a multi-screen collapsible version.

If Asus is doing this right, they are not just looking at the product concepts, they are looking at validation of trends – for example, if you scroll through the dream PC designs and the votes they have received – some trends become clear, like people seem to be pitching for a hybrid between the phone and the PC which seems to be the next convergence point after consumer-communication and communication-computation that happened earlier with the music phones and Skype on laptop.

There is a definite trend towards enhanced interaction experiences with their phone-cum-laptop-cum-multimedia player devices – which could translate into touch screens, artificial intelligence, personalized look and feel etc…and much more as Asus reads through the trends and benefits.

Now, one might wonder, Asus has this in open, other PC vendors must also be mining this data – why did they chose to be the ones on whose cost the competition benefits? Will a wepc ardent user buy an Asus model vs. Dell/HP/Acer/Lenovo, given the same feature and better pricing?
Maybe, in the laptop world, people don’t really buy unique designs from a given vendor, the more vendors make things, the more a given “similar” kind of design sells because now there is a comparison reference point (Apple being an exception which I don’t want to use to prove a rule)

Food for thought and comments….

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